Damien Richardson will take charge of Drogheda United for the first time as his side welcomes relegation candidates UCD to United Park on Friday night, kick-off 7.45pm.
The 66-year-old’s surprise appointment last week was announced just 24 hours after Drogheda secured their first league win over Shamrock Rovers in seven years, a result which moved the Boynesiders up to eighth in the table and four points above the Students.
“My main aim at Drogheda is to achieve a high level of performance with a strong tempo to our game,” Richardson declared. “The demand between now and the end of the season will be to improve with each passing game and the attitude of the players will be the catalyst for that. We find ourselves in a position that the club shouldn’t be in but it is now up to us to battle our way back to where we should be.”
Caretaker manager Darius Kierans will now serve as Richardson’s assistant in a new look management team which will include Neale Fenn in a coaching role as United look to improve on their league standing.
Drogheda’s form at home this season has been modest at best with only three wins from ten games, their last victory coming against Bohemians on the 16th of May. Despite going into the clash as favourites, the Dubliner is weary of the test that UCD will pose.
“I watched UCD play in Cork a fortnight ago and they were impressive and unfortunate not to come away with a result. They were heavily beaten last week but that happens when you have such a young side. Individually, they are very capable and Aaron Callaghan is an excellent manager who plays an attractive style of football but it is imperative for us to beat the sides around us in the table.”
Paul Andrews will be suspended for the hosts as he serves the final match of his four game ban while Stephen Maher will be missing due to injury.
UCD come into tonight’s game off the back of a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of Derry City, a result which sees them level on points with Bray Wanderers in the relegation play-off position.
It has been a rough couple of months for the Students who have recorded only one victory, a 1-0 win at home to Sligo Rovers, since UCD and Drogheda last faced each other ten games ago.
Speaking ahead of the trip to Drogheda, UCD manager Aaron Callaghan has urged his players to use recent results as motivation for Friday’s crunch clash.
"Drogheda had a great result last weekend against Shamrock Rovers and will be confident ahead of the game. It's going to be a tough challenge for us, but we are looking to bounce back after the disappointing result against Derry."
Callaghan will not be helped by the absence of several key players with Mark Langtry, Dean Clarke and Tomas Boyle all injured, while both Hugh Douglas and Colm Crowe will be missing through suspension.
"The last few weeks has seen our side depleted through injuries and suspensions. Hopefully we will be able to start getting some players back fully fit over the next few weeks, but both Dean Clarke and Mark Langtry will both be long term absentees."
Referee: Derek Tomney
UCD were victorious when the sides met earlier in the season as goals from Robbie Benson and Cillian Morrison secured a 2-1 win.
It has been five games since Drogheda last defeated the Students, a 3-2 victory at United Park in April 2013.
Friday’s encounter will see the meeting of the two leakiest defences in the premier division with UCD having conceded 45 goals while Drogheda have let in 50 to date.
Drogheda United 4/6; Draw 27/10; UCD 15/4.
Drogheda United 2-0 UCD
Injured: Stephen Maher
Suspended: Paul Andrews
Injured: Mark Langtry, Dean Clarke, Tomas Boyle
Doubtful: Ian Ryan
Suspended: Hugh Douglas, Colm Crowe